A COUNCIL has pledged its support to a national charter which bids to tackle the scourge of modern slavery.

Councillors unanimously backed plans tabled in a motion by leader of the council, Cllr Ann Thompson, to sign up to the National Charter Against Modern Slavery.

More than 40 million people across the world are believed to be impacted by modern slavery. The figures are the highest ever, even surpassing those recorded during the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which formerly ended in the 19th Century.

Cllr Thompson said: “Modern slavery is one of the great evils of our time and could be impacting 13,000 people in the UK according to figures from the Home Office.

“It includes forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced begging, fraud and illegal adoption. Traffickers use whatever means they have to force victims into a life of servitude which is more than at any other time in history.

“Modern slavery happens in plain sight across so many sectors, but we don’t see it because we’re not looking for it. By adopting this charter we are sending a clear message to everyone in the borough that it will not be tolerated.”

Modern slavery bears all the hallmarks of its historic predecessor but has moved from plantations and large-scale industry to include sexual exploitation, slave labour and human trafficking in everyday low-paid trades.

At a full council meeting Cllr Thompson’s motion was backed by council deputy leader, Lee Roberts, and received cross-party support.

The motion included a ten-point plan committing the council and its teams to ensure local authority contractors are not involved in people trafficking or modern slavery of any form.

Deputy Leader, Councillor Lee Roberts, said: “We all share a responsibility to be aware of this issue. Modern slavery makes profit out of people’s misery and we must challenge it in our daily lives. By adopting this charter, we aim to raise awareness of this grave issue and to urge the borough’s residents to be vigilant against what is essentially organised crime. This is not about politics – it’s about human decency.”

The Council’s Charter Against Modern Slavery commits the Council to:

1. Train its corporate procurement team to understand modern slavery through the CIPS course on Ethical Procurement and Supply.

2. Require contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, wherever it applies, with contract termination as a potential sanction for non-compliance.

3. Challenge any abnormally low-cost tenders to ensure they do not rely upon the potential contractor practising modern slavery.

4. Highlight to suppliers that contracted workers are free to join a trade union and are not to be treated unfairly for belonging to one.

5.Publicise its whistle-blowing system for staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.

6. Require tendered contractors to adopt a whistle-blowing policy which enables staff to blow the whistle on any suspected examples of modern slavery.

7. Review contractual spending regularly to identify any potential issues with modern slavery.

8. Highlight for its suppliers any risks identified concerning modern slavery and refer them to the relevant agencies to be addressed.

9. Refer for investigation via the National Crime Agency’s national referral mechanism any of its contractors identified as a cause for concern regarding modern slavery.

10. Report publicly on the implementation of this policy annually.